Today I cycle alone – through the down South of Sri Lanka. It’s the Sinhala and Tamil New Year’s Eve – people are celebrating the Old Year. Shops are closed and everyone is enjoying the holidays, except me. I decided to go late because I was advised by the owner of the Kirinda Beach Resort (Mr. Jude) that I will not be able to find a place for lunch so it was best if I can take something from there along with my breakfast.
My uncle has been very instrumental in rehabilitating this place after it was devastated by the Tsunami in 2006. There was no electricity, clean water – just rubble. Now when I see this resort it has brought a sense of purpose for these people in the village. And of course Mr. Jerome wouldn’t mind entertaining his friend’s favourite nephew on his cycle tour.
I set off from Kirinda at 9am and started my journey slow. Villages were filled with music and laughter because people were at home for the holidays. I had to go through Bundala to reach Hambantota. While I was going through the wildlife park I stopped on the side of the road to check my navigation, because it was a long ride and there were no shops and people to check if I made a mistake. From far, I could hear the trees twisting to the wind and suddenly an elephant appeared from one side and crossed over to the other.
Luckily it was far away and I was praying it won’t come towards me because I wasn’t too sure how to react to a charging elephant.
This part of the country is dominated by an invasive plant called “Katu Andara”. They have thorns and their branches reach out to the road. When I was on the main road I encountered one of these thorns and ended up with a puncture. I had to stop by at a swamp to find shade and also a place to check where air is leaking from the tyre tube. The heat was not at all helping and I can’t imagine how I told myself to continue with this. I was cycling through the huge flyovers in Hambantota – places where no mortal would ever go on a cycle at this time of the day. It was so frustrating because I was doing this on my own and my bike was giving trouble.
I entered Ambalantota – the A2 road which eventually lead me home. No more flyovers, just a narrow road where all the buses and cars are at war trying to overtake each other. It was lunch time so I decided to stop by a Thambili hut and have a drink while having my meal. Is it just me or are there so many hills on this road? From far, I can see dark clouds rolling in. It can’t rain here, these are one of driest parts in the country.
I have never been so wrong. It rained, and every hill I climbed seemed so far away. Sometimes I couldn’t see far because it rained so heavily. I stopped by an old bus stand just to make sure everything was waterproof. I remember I told my campus friend Paramee that I’ll be seeing him over at Matara. Now I’m wondering whether I will even make it that far. It’s frustrating when you have to take this journey alone. I had no way of keeping myself warm because I was soaking wet. It took me a good 10 to 15 minutes of cycling to get my body heated up again, but until then it was torture.
What a change this has been. A few hours ago I was burning on the asphalt of the highways in Hambantota. And now I’m cold and miserable. I kept a mantra in my mind, to help me get through this journey.
IT’S THE TOUGHEST FIRE THAT MAKES THE FINEST STEEL